The most essential thing is to create a stimulating learning environment that fosters dialogue between learners. It is challenging but can be done with proper planning.
While enjoying my spring break I just pondered on how we can cultivate communication in the classroom more effectively. I realized that in three months, we will be at the end of the school year. Normally at the end of the school year, I spend a lot of time reflecting on my own communication skills as a leader. There is a lot of information to disseminate to teachers and everyone is tired so there are gaps in understanding. This year, the team and I have used different means of communication and it leaves me wondering what worked, what didn’t, where we need to streamline and what needs to change.
Speaking of Classroom Learners
Then taking it deeper I wonder if I struggle this much, what’s communication like in the classroom and how can we best help our team of teachers to develop deeper more meaningful communication with our learners. Communication is one of the most essential twenty-first-century skills, but teaching these skills is not an easy task for teachers. Communication is a building block. Cultivating a culture of communication in the classroom creates a foundation for building the other, ‘C’s:’ collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. How do we cultivate these skills in our students? Communication is not just words. It is how we paint a picture or craft meaning with visuals, empathy, perspective, relatable and genuine stories, metaphors, and clear purpose.
Creating Conducive Environment for Learners
The most essential thing is to create a stimulating learning environment that fosters dialogue between learners. It is challenging but can be done with proper planning. Learners feel safe in a learning environment where they can communicate effectively with their educator as well as peers. In such a safe environment, learners thrive, prosper and learn.
The importance of establishing good communication at a young age is critical in a child’s development and future learning. The communication skills that students learn at school are fully transferable and essential across all aspects of life. Furthermore, it has been proven that supportive teacher-student relationships have a positive impact on class participation, engagement and ultimately a student’s achievements. Communication is a process where learners freely exchange thoughts or ideas with one another. It basically enables learners to freely discuss thoughts and ideas and creates an open environment in which questions can be asked without the risk of being judged or humiliated.
Communication isn’t just about speaking; it’s also about listening.
Throughout my years as an educator, I have always strived to create a safe and supportive environment where my learners feel comfortable to open up and express their thoughts and ideas. It has been a challenge to create an atmosphere that allows learners to ask if they need help is crucial to their academic success. As a leader I now stress on how important it is at all stages of the teaching process that we nurture this kind of non-judgemental environment. Having an open-door policy and allowing students to pop in and talk about anything that may occur is a great way to promote good communication. Giving students extra support, tuition or explanations before and after class helps shy students that don’t feel comfortable in class to ask questions to learn.
Building the Team Spirit
Another thing that is very helpful in promoting communication skills in the classroom is doing more team activities, and group work is a great way to take the focus off competing with one another and concentrate more on working together to get the best results. It can encourage communication, cooperation and collaboration and help learners talk more and effectively express themselves with their peers. Sometimes we forget to provide positive feedback to learners for performing well or for putting in their best. This is more so for learners with behavioural issues. They need a constant pat on their shoulder to boost their morale. Learners who receive praise are more likely to believe that they can accomplish tasks and be successful. It can help to build a learner’s confidence, create a good rapport and supportive environment. Also, encourage your students to give you feedback on lessons or teaching styles. It shows that you appreciate and value their opinion as well as helping to improve learning.
Cultivating the Art of Listening
Communication isn’t just about speaking; it’s also about listening. Teachers can help their students develop listening skills by reading a selection of text aloud, and then having the class discuss and reflect on the content. It also means listening to understand rather than reply. Reinforce building good listening skills by encouraging students to practice asking clarifying questions to fully understand the speaker’s intended message.
Another strategy that I encourage my teachers to use is to ask Open-Ended Questions. These inspire discussion and demonstrate that there are multiple ways to perceive and answer a question. You might set a timer for short informal conversations and challenge students to use open-ended questions. Always use Tasks and Activities that foster Critical Thinking. These can be done verbally or through written assignments that give students the chance to answer questions creatively using their own words and expressions. Provide students with opportunities to reflect on their own learning. Recording students reading selected text or videotaping group presentations is an excellent method for assessing their communication strengths and weaknesses. Students can reflect on their oral performance in small groups. Then, ask each student to critique the others so that they can get used to receiving constructive criticism. For quieter students, increasing the amount of talk in your classroom may feel daunting.
Ensuring that you have a guideline that requires all students to be included in discussions gives more confident students a responsibility to ensure that everyone is heard from.
Remediana Dias is the author of the book—“Understanding Dyslexia”. She studied M.Sc in Specific Learning Difficulties at the University of Southampton, UK. She is the founder of the NGO—Vision Education Society in Goa. She was recently recognized as the Indian Achiever among the top 50 under 50 for the year 2020 for her work in the field of education.